Interview with Carolyn Parks, The President Of Outstanding Women Speakers Incorporated™ - North America's Premier All-women's Speakers Bureau.
Tell us a little about your background
Originally, my background was in marketing and market research. I have a business background (my MBA) and then decided that the corporate/office world was not for me. This led to me getting into events management and production approximately 10 years ago. Through my company, I founded the Total Woman Show, a women’s conference that took place in three cities. During this experience, I discovered a passion and a need for promoting female talent. Five years ago, I founded Outstanding Women Speakers Incorporated™.
What inspired you to start Outstanding Women Speakers?
When I was on the events side of things, I was booking speakers for events. At that time, approximately five years ago, I noted that there seemed to be an inequity between male and female speakers. With my events and marketing background, combined with this observation, I had found a passion. Also, I had been involved with public speaking and theatre as interests for years. So, given the fact that public speaking was a true hobby and talent for me, I felt that all my skills and interests had finally found one ‘home’ and a vision.
Tell us a little more about your wonderful project!
Outstanding Women Speakers is an all-women’s speakers bureau – based near Toronto, Canada - promoting female voices from across the US and Canada. Our speakers come from a wide diversity of industries. What they all have in common includes: passion, ambition, incredible experience and impressive contributions to their industry or the world.
What are your business challenges?
My main business challenge is letting people know we are here in the amongst the jungle of other speakers bureaus. In North America, the marketplace is saturated with speakers bureaus. It is difficult to indicate how you stand apart until people use your service. We do not specialize in sourcing the highest profile names, even though that is something we can easily do. Rather, we focus on promoting women speakers who are highly dynamic, well known in their fields, and for the most part, quite affordable compared to many other agency offerings. In our service efforts toward clients, we are impeccable. We get back to clients quickly, we are warm, we are highly thorough, and go the extra mile in trying to find a suitable fit. We take the time to offer considerate input to speakers who approach us as well, even if they are not a fit or ready for our bureau.
Did you come across other entrepreneurs who helped out?
I have found that for the most part, people are willing to share their experience and insights. I would say that I have had many a wonderful conversation with speakers, a few other bureaus, clients and more. It’s not just entrepreneurs who can be helpful, but certainly entrepreneurs ‘get it’ and therefore seem to pay it (‘it’ being the great advice and support they have received in past) forward.
What's the biggest lesson you have learned in your career to date?
Always treat every single person you meet with great respect and consideration. Not only because it’s the respectful and human thing to do, but also because it is a small world and you never know when someone might become a client one day.
Do you have any personal wisdom or tips to share with women who want to start their own businesses?
I have noticed that some women show hesitation in starting their business because they don’t know where to start. And I think a lack of general confidence (i.e. “I’ve never done this before!”) holds them back. The only way to start is to start! Everyone is inexperienced until they get in there and roll up their sleeves. Learn everything there is to know about your business. Get out there and do your research, speak to experts, volunteer in appropriate ways to get connected, and just start. There is no road map, so it just comes down to digging in – ask the questions and find the answers. I realize that there is much I don’t know. But I don’t let that stand in my way and affect my confidence. I’m confident that when I have a question, I will find the answer.
Do you think women have to have a higher education or extensive business experience to start their own company?
I don’t believe so, honestly. I think that women just need to know their stuff, perform well and exhibit ambition. When the rest of the world notices her excellence, she has every opportunity available to her in achieving success. I think that unfortunately, women can sometimes place roadblocks in their own path by focussing too much on the challenges that have traditionally been thrown women’s way or their differences from men. In our culture, in most industries (with work to be done in some), I think that these barriers are falling down. I think that a good idea, good work ethic, planning and ambition create success. You don’t need a degree to achieve success, in my opinion.
Which business leader do you admire the most and why?
There are so many I admire, so it’s hard to name just one. But to go with a very well recognized brand and one that is local to where I live, I would like to mention the leaders of RIM, the makers of the BlackBerry. It goes without saying that I admire any people that can change the way the world communicates and build an empire. However, these leaders also believe in investing in innovation. As such, they put a great deal of money into centres of excellence, study and research. They also are great leaders because while they expect a great deal from their employees, they reward them well and know how to celebrate. Finally, they are very community based. Even though they are global, they continue to remember where they came from.
What do you think being a Modern Woman is all about?
I know it’s been said often, but I do agree that balance is the central challenge for the Modern Woman…I also think that the Modern Woman faces more choices and options than ever before. While this is a great thing, everything good comes with its challenges. Many options also can create extra stress, guilt and questions around how to accomplish everything and still maintain sanity and wellbeing. So the Modern Woman also confronts more philosophical questions on what life should look like in terms of self servitude and external servitude.
How do you fill your free time?
I am currently a mother to two young children (4 and 1), so I don’t have free time! However, if I am able to eke out a few moments, for me a fantastic book combined with a glass of wine and a bath is pure heaven.
Looking ahead …
I would like to say that I have a specific vision as to how my life and career will look. But I am not like that. I understand that plans constantly evolve. Therefore, in looking ahead, I just see moving, growing, creating great things through my career in general. I am a natural connector, and there is great excitement in the mystery of ‘what will come next’. I resemble loose cannon when I say this, but it’s not true. I love to implement. However, I value the idea that what is happening today may lead to something I cannot possibly imagine ten years into the future.
To learn more about Carolyn Parks and Outstanding Women Speakers Incorporated™ please visit the website: